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South Africa, Namibia, Victoria Falls, Mauritius & UAE via Emirates First, Qatar Biz

South Africa, Namibia, Victoria Falls, Mauritius & UAE via Emirates First, Qatar Biz

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Old Oct 11, 16, 9:49 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: YVR - Vancouver, with most winter weekends in Whistler.
Programs: Aeroplan, Alaska MVP, Marriott Platinum / Lifetime Gold
Posts: 4,161
South Africa, Namibia, Victoria Falls, Mauritius & UAE via Emirates First, Qatar Biz


South Africa, Namibia, Victoria Falls, Mauritius & the UAE via Emirates First, Qatar Business (QR J, EK F, BA J, SA J, SW Y)

YVR-LAX-DOH-JNB-CPT (AAdvantage Award)
CPT-WDH-MUB-VFA (paid)
VFA-JNB (BA Avios Award)
JNB-MRU (paid)
MRU-DXB-LAX-SEA (Alaska Mileage Plan Award)
SEA-YVR (paid)




In this report:

American Airlines First Class: Vancouver - Los Angeles
AAdmirals Club: Los Angeles Terminal Four
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge: Los Angeles Terminal Two
Qatar Airways Business Class: Los Angeles - Doha
The Westin Doha Hotel and Spa, Doha Qatar.
Souq Wahif, Doha Qatar
Qatar Al Mourjan Business Lounge, Doha Hamad International Airport
Qatar Airways Business Class: Doha - Johannesburg
The Slow Lounge: O.R. Tambo International Airport, Domestic, Johannesburg
British Airways Comair Business Class: Johannesburg - Cape Town
Westin Cape Town
Wine Tasting: Paarl
Shark Diving: Gansbaai
Hermanus
Franschoek
Air Namibia Economy Class: Cape Town - Windhoek
Sossus Dune Lodge, Sesriem, Namibia
Sossusvlei, Namibia
Penguin Point Lodge, Walvis Bay, Namibia
Spitskoppe
Hilton Windhoek
Air Namibia Economy Class: Windhoek - Maun - Victoria Falls
The Victoria Falls Hotel
Victoria Falls
British Airways Comair Business Class: Victoria Falls - Johannesburg
The Hyatt Regency Johannesburg
South African Airways International Business Class Lounge: Johannesburg
South African Airways Business Class: Johannesburg - Mauritius
St Regis Mauritius, Le Morne
Air Maurituis Salon Amédée Maingard Lounge
Emirates First Class: Mauritius - Dubai
Grosvenor House, Dubai
Al Ain
Emirates First Class Lounge Terminal "B", Dubai
Emirates First Class: Dubai - Los Angeles
Alaska Airlines Board Room Lounge, Los Angeles
Alaska Airlines First Class: Los Angeles - Seattle
Delta Sky Club Lounge: Seattle South Satellite Terminal
Delta Airlines First Class: Seattle - Vancouver

Links to my previous reports:

Dodging Volcanic Ash: A family trip to Bali / Singapore with my 11 year old (DL J / OZ J / KL J / JL J) July 2015
RTW#3 (J): Vietnam, Maldives, and Tackling India’s Golden Triangle. (AC/OZ/SQ/AI/TK), May 2015
Experiencing flying as a "Non-Rev", Australia Wine and Beaches, (AC J/Y, QF J) November 2014
Alaska Airlines First Class to Las Vegas, and a stay in the Aria Sky Suites “Penthouse” (AS F), August 2014
Family trip to Kenora Lake of the Woods Ontario via Air Canada Business Class (AC J). August 2014
Cathay Pacific First Class to New York, a sombre visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum & 4 days of eating in NYC. (CX F) May 2014
RTW #2 (J): The Khors of Oman - via Japan, Poland, & the UAE. RTW in Biz (NH J 787, OZ J, TG J, EY J, TK J, LH J). April 2014
South Africa, Safari in Maasai Mara Kenya, & Mauritius (UA J, SA J, XAK, LX J, AC J) Nov 2013
A family trip to Westin Playa Conchal, Liberia Costa Rica, (UA Y) Aug 2013
Buried Treasure: UAE Empty Quarter and Beyond to Huvadhoo Atoll, Maldives (UA Y, EY J/Y, Q2 Y), Nov 2012
RTW #1 (F): The Time Share Presentation, Spain, China, Thailand, (AC J, OZ F, TG F, LH J, LH F, AC Y) May 2012.
A visit to Macchu Picchu and Valle Nevado, Peru and Chile. (AC J, LA Y) Sept 2011
Travel after the Revolution of January 25, 2011. Egypt. (MS Y) May 2011
A Step Back in Time: The Twilight of Burma, a visit to Myanmar (MI Y) Sept 2010


Background:

After being fortunate enough to get 3 Round the World Trips and one Africa Trip out of Aeroplan’s frequent flier program, we started diversifying our point collections. The Emirates First Class award was always on my mind and thanks to a decent amount of seat availability, we were able to lock in and easily plan a trip. We decided to travel westward on Emirates since the flights usually leave for the Americas in the day time. This would allow us to spend more time awake and less time sleeping. The outstation lounges for Emirates didn’t look all too impressive so we decided to travel westward on Emirates and just had to pick the route.

Initially, we had planned to fly eastward on Etihad from the Americas to Abu Dhabi and a separate award down to Cape Town. Before we were ready to book, Etihad pulled its First Class award availability completely to and from the USA. When we added in the fact that Etihad was flying old Jet Airways configured aircraft between Abu Dhabi and Cape Town, compared to Qatar’s brand new Boeing 787’s, it made sense to scrap the Etihad First Class complications or challenges and stick with Qatar on the entire routing. We secured an AAdvantage Business Award from North America to Africa at 75,000 miles per person.

For the return, thanks to Expertflyer and the Alaska Mileage Plan, I found generous award availability at the 5 1/2 month mark departing Mauritius. Emirates services Mauritius with a double daily A380 and there were lots of seats available. First Class availability for 2, to and from South Africa, was almost non existent (with the exception of Harare in Zimbabwe on their old Airbus 340’s) so we opted for another short paid positioning side trip to Mauritius, repeating our 2013 visit experience.

We had both been to Cape Town before and had loved it. It’s particularly beautiful and it was my third trip back there. I had always wanted to visit Namibia and this was our opportunity. Although we could have flown from Cape Town to Windhoek using the BA Avios points through Johannesburg, it was a route that would involve almost double or triple the time. We opted for the shorter non stop direct flights, on Air Namibia.

MrsWT73 had an interest in seeing Victoria Falls after seeing it on the US Version of The Amazing Race Season 27. It seemed like it had grown up since my last visit there in 1998 when it was a simple “back water” town (not intended to be a joke). For this visit, we booked in at the colonial Victoria Falls Hotel, with our return flight to Johannesburg on British Airways Comair using BA Avios.

All up, this trip was a pain to organize with many moving parts. I was relieved when it was all done, which was mid way through the trip.

I hope you’ll enjoy the next segments of our adventures to probably my most favorite continent on earth!

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Dec 17, 16 at 12:08 pm
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Old Oct 11, 16, 9:56 pm
  #2  
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American Airlines
Compass Airlines Operated as American Eagle
First Class
YVR-LAX (Vancouver International Airport – Los Angeles Airport Terminal 4)
AA 5987
April 14, 2016
Booked: Embraer RJ 175
Flown: Embraer RJ 175
Departure: 7:00 AM
Arrival: 10:06 AM

We had a not so wonderful 3:30 AM wake up to get to the airport today. It was about an hour to shower and button up the house and we were on our way to the Vancouver International Airport via the Aerocar Service.

It was not a great get away day today. The black Lincoln Towncar that was sent to pick us up had a broken self leveling suspension so it rode like a low-rider all the way to the airport. This translated into two severely “shaken” travelers before we even got onto the plane. We only brought (or forgot) enough Gravol ginger for one for the trip, so I spent 15 minutes walking over to the other side of the Vancouver airport Pharmasave store looking for more, only to find it closed.





We attempted check in at the AA kiosks, but the Titmatic Visa check blocked any further progress. Our AAgent was further unable to print out all boarding cards; WT73 was able to get all boarding cards checked through to Cape Town, whereas I was only able to get my American flight to Los Angeles. I tried, but was unable to list her for an upgrade into the business class cabin, despite 4 seats showing as available and her being on a AAdvantage business award ticket. When we booked the ticket, someone else had already grabbed the other business class saver seat so we had a reservation of one in business and one in economy.

Global Entry was kind to us today and without lines, we were through the US Pre-Clearance at YVR quickly and into the dark airport. There were bizarre Donald Duck collections on display on the secure side, along with the usual world class First Nations art that is always around the Vancouver International Airport.











We settled in on board the Embraer 175 in the 1-2 seating configuration. The American flight featured a refreshed cabin with grey leather seating. Unfortunately, there was no in seat power, and as expected of the smaller aircraft, no video monitors. Hey mister looking at me; I know what you’re thinking – “Who let this amateur photographer in here”?



A pre-departure beverage of water was provided, followed by an announcement that they had run out of drinking water on board.

We pushed back next to the Westjet “Frozen” themed aircraft. Our departure was on runway 08R today, which meant a fly over of the Lower Mainland district eastwards towards the Rockies (away from the ocean). Nice view of the mountains on our left here…





There was the usual tired towel service. A cold breakfast was provided promptly about 40 minutes in the flight. There was only one choice today of granola and fruit, which was served plated all at once. This is quite similar to Delta Airlines on this route in the morning with a cold cereal on the morning flight.





It was pretty friendly service on the way down with a nice view of Mount Rainer peeking through the clouds.



Before we knew it, and a few winks later, we were in bound to LAX.





We landed in Los Angeles Terminal 4 outfield terminal. I still find it fascinating every time I come through here how many aircraft are on the ground. Sure- it’s less than a state of the art facility but still awesome none the less.



Overall the flight was pretty consistent with what others are offering on this route. Even the Embraer configuration is comparable to Delta’s offering on this route. There isn’t much reason to pick American over Delta over Alaska on this route so perhaps it comes down to which lounge you favor leaving Los Angles since all 3 have access to none leaving Vancouver.
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Old Oct 11, 16, 10:06 pm
  #3  
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AAdmirals Club
American Airlines
Los Angeles Airport Terminal 4


I stopped by the AA customer service desk in Terminal 4 in efforts to see if I could get my Qatar boarding passes printed so that we could get into the lounge in Terminal 2. We had a six hour connection and there was no way that the Qatar check in desks were open and I wasn’t able to check in online. Unfortunately, the staff there was unable to help out; “you don’t have a seat assignment” was what I was told. Honestly, I think these staff don’t know, or aren’t being told what are on their computer… I struck out again and despite MrsWT73 having success at getting her boarding cards, I was out of luck.



We headed over to the AAdmirals Club in Terminal 4 and I plead my access and entry case with the lounge dragon. I didn’t know whether they would let us in given that we were flying Qatar in another terminal and I didn’t have any boarding cards, just a printed itinerary as proof of onward travel. The only difference between MrsWT73's booking and mine was the ticket number. Fortunately, she was an AAngel (as they say) as she looked my ITIN and confirmed that I was eligible for access. We also got 2 free premium drink chits stamped with our onward journey on Qatar.







We entered the lounge. It’s an oddly shaped space with fantastic window views over the apron.









Ok – this place is miles ahead of any United Club, especially the one in Terminal 7 in LAX. A nice space, pleasant. Food available to order (at cost) and actual unwrapped cheese cubes, unlike those wrapped Tillamoook cheeses next door in the United Club. This isn’t the best in the world but my gosh, it’s miles ahead of what I had come to expect from my United friend. Although it looks busy in the photographs, there was a substantial amount of turn over making it easy to find seating.



There was small double television area in the back that didn’t appear to be too busy this morning.





The place went on an on with many more seating areas that didn’t have a direct window view. The lounge crosses over to the other side of the terminal with overhead passageways.









There was also a full bar area that was actually a pleasant space to hang out in, unlike the dark counters at the UA clubs.



It was a little light on reading materials. There was only the Financial Times and a few other in house newspapers and magazines.

Some nice air side views at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Air Tahiti Nui – one day!!



We were able to kill a few hours here before headed over to check in at Qatar in Terminal 2 in among the nicest environments one could hope for at the Los Angeles airport.
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Old Oct 11, 16, 10:33 pm
  #4  
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Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge
Los Angeles Airport Terminal 2


For the first time ever, we took a miss on the LAX shuttle bus and walked over underneath the spyder to Terminal 2 for Qatar. We checked in at the business line. The check in at T-180 was almost completely deserted, except for a few families waiting around outside the mazes, presumably not wanting to confine themselves to the tiny terminal of Terminal 2.





This is where the outbound trip started to go a bit "pear shaped". The Qatar check in agent attempted to “correct” our checked bags destination by cancelling the current assignment to Doha, and re-checking them through to Cape Town. We had a 13 hour layover and had hoped to have our bags with us, instead of sitting in the Doha airport hold unattended.

I asked that they leave the checked bag assignment as is, but she wouldn’t have any of it. She assured us that they would be on the belt in Cape Town. Thankfully, we had carry on’s as well with a change of clothes for our overnight in Doha. Unfortunately, when she handed back our bag stubs, they were the original bag stubs indicating that the bags were to be checked to Doha. Regrettably, I didn’t realize this until we were on the plane and fully airborne. I made the decision that we would check the bag claim belt on our arrival in Doha anyway in case of any mix up.

Qatar doesn’t participate in TSA Pre-Check so we joined the regular queue for security. There wasn’t much of a line with only 3 people ahead of us.

Terminal Two is much brighter than it used to be. It’s undergone a slight re-fresh since the last time I passed through here, but it’s not a game changer with the same basic shape with the same plain amenities. There is not much here so there is no need to arrive early if you are leaving from here.





Qatar uses the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge in Terminal Two. Air Canada has taken over what was previously the fabulous Air New Zealand Koru Club, the long upstairs space in the Northwest corner.





I’m sorry to report that the lounge has gone downhill in a very large way since it’s days as the Air New Zealand Koru Club. This probably used to be the top Star Alliance Lounge in North America when it was run by Air New Zealand. Although the lounge is featuring new furniture (no more stylish Air NZ white couches) it’s certainly downhill in the quality of both food and beverage.











These refrigerators used to be packed chock full of wonderful New Zealand Wines, and now they sit mostly empty with only a few tired discounted labels. Air New Zealand staff used to wander around acting as gracious reception hosts, chatting with families travelling. Now there are only a few dis interested cleaning staff that take away dishes.



The food is strictly Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge standard fare; couscous, pita chips, small sandwiches. They are okay and can fill out up in terms of a meal, but are nothing to really write home about.



Furthermore, setting the tone of the dreariness, I got yelled at by the lounge dragon for taking a photograph of the lobby reception area that she happened to be in while seated behind the counter; “You must delete that photograph at once!!!” She didn’t seem to mind photographs of the other areas of the lounge. Again, a sad sign of how hospitable this place has become. I couldn’t get the wifi to connect on my iPhone and I certainly wasn’t about to re-approach the host after that interaction with her.

The visit ended with no power plug ins near the chairs, where I enjoyed my short glass of Proprietor's White No Name wine as we killed time prior to the flight. Unfortunately, I had to conclude that this place has declined as compared what it was before, and most certainly compared to its flagship Star Alliance Lounge sister over in the Tom Bradley International Terminal. It seems Air New Zealand has gone onto bigger and better things by assuming operation of the new Star Alliance TBIT lounge, leaving it's forgotten cousin abandoned on the curb where she found her. . .

Give me the AAdmirals Club in Terminal 4 any day.
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Old Oct 11, 16, 11:04 pm
  #5  
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Qatar Airways
Business Class
LAX-DOH (Los Angeles Airport Terminal 2 – Doha Hamad International Airport)
QR 740
Flown:
Departure: 4:05 PM
Arrival: 6:10 PM + 1
April 14, 2016
Booked: Boeing 777-200
Flown: Boeing 777-200


The booking experience for this flight was super easy. Qatar Airways was releasing up to 4 business class seats per flight on this route when we booked and it was easy to find dates that worked with our connection to South Africa. We were able to transit the middle east region thanks to the QR exemption on AAdvantage that allows flights on Qatar to pass through Doha (provided that you are flying on QR in and out of Doha).

At about T-50, boarding was announced in the lounge by a Qatar airways ground representative who made the rounds. After that lounge experience, we were looking forward to getting onto the 7th longest flight in the world on "The World's Five Star Airline".

We headed down to the terminal where there was a proper business class boarding lane, that was maintained throughout the boarding process. We were able to walk up about 10 minutes after the initial lounge boarding announcement and get on without getting stuck.



It was single jet bridge boarding today with boarding through 1L. On board, we turned right into the business class seat configuration of 2-2-2. All the passengers streamed through the cabin as we settled in.









The seats are quite dated, but they are exceptionally comfortable for traveling as a couple. There is quite a bit of space between the seats, with only 4 rows of business in the front cabin, and 3 rows of business in the second cabin. I couldn’t even reach the foot rest with my feet!



The seat had a multi adjustment to almost every angle. The chair is more comfortable for lounging. As a side sleeper, without the mattress pad, the seat material can be quite firm. It was not impossibly comfortable, but it was no hotel mattress by any means.



There was a mattress pad and blanket available on the seat, in addition to wrapped pillows.

As we settled into our seat, Felix came to personally introduce himself to us as our server for the day. The lead purser also came around to introduce himself, inviting us to call on them at any time.

There was a bottle of water at each seat in the compartment.



There was a prompt pre-departure beverage of water, lemon mint or champagne was offered. Of course it’s champagne today in a proper flute along with a towel service.



The menus were presented shortly afterwards. The menus were in a nicely bound paper with subtle textures to the cover.











There was also an outstanding business class wine list, featuring two types of champagne (regular and rose), Premier Cru Burgundies, Grand Cru Classe’ French Bordeaux, sweet chenin’s and port.













My gosh, we aren’t even to the red’s yet… Color me impressed. Here they are…











Keeping with the great start, amenity kits and pajamas were also presented.





There were separate men and women’s Giorgio Armani kits in sleek black pouches. The contents were not super useful, (as in, there were not a lot of items inside), but it was better than nothing.





As we headed out on taxi, I caught my first glimpse of the British Airways A380 that will be serving Vancouver seasonally for the first time this summer.



We took off to altitude. I played around with the entertainment system Oryx One and located the flight take off screen, which simulated a cockpit view.











The meal service was offered immediately after take off, or almost 40 minutes into the flight. The dining was a la carte - literally I asked for the beef and got the beef served right away. I should have ordered the appetizers as well, in that order. Instead, I had the entire meal in reverse sequence.

The dinner service started with a mixed nuts accompaniment, paired with Drappier Rose Champagne. Table set up was done with a proper napkin presentation at each opportunity.



So, here it is, in reverse order, Grilled Fillet of Beef with horseradish jus, parsley mashed potatoes. Maple glazed carrots and baby onions, paired with Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Grand Cru Classe.





Roast Butternut Squash Soup with lemon and herb crème fraiche with a cheese twist



Lastly, the Smoked salmon with pea and potato salad, paired with Rully Premier Cru Gresigny Burgundy.



I started into the movie Spectre but didn’t get to far. I crashed out pretty quickly, and didn’t even bother to change into pajamas or set up the mattress pad. The plane offers noise-canceling headphones. The cabin was dark (shades drawn) for most of the flight. I must have been exhausted from that 3:30 AM early wake up, as I woke up about 6 hours later, a full 11 hours into the flight, as we were over Turkey.





Good thing I am not flying this thing, I can’t even read where we are.



There were some beautiful mountains over what appeared to be Iraq as I got ready for the second service. The second service, as with other dining, is on demand. There was a polite explanation that the food takes a bit of time to cook or heat, as they placed the plate setting.



I went with the banana and coconut smoothie, two café lattes, and the cheddar cheese omelette with grilled chicken sausage. Qatar seemed to run out of smoothies as MrsWT73 asked for one after a taste test of mine and she was not able to get one at all.







There was not a lot in the way of cabin ambience. There were the typical soft blue lights in the roof of the plane, but nothing state of the art, or that contained a wow factor that you see on some of the other Middle Eastern “3” carriers.

MrsWT73, usually a harsh food critic, particularly enjoyed the menu items on Qatar, and the general availability of items that appealed to her. She really liked the Dine on Demand option, although found the seats a little firm for her liking as well.

As the flight drew to a close, the cabin got ready for landing. At this time, a funny thing happened. As I was stowing my laptop in the overhead, I took a look around the cabin and happened to notice that about 50% of the cabin had changed into traditional Middle East attire (abbeyas and dishada's). Throughout the flight, all the passengers were in flip flops and jogging pants so it was a little different to be almost completely surrounded by black robes, some with full niqab's. It was a unique and fun experience that I had not had the opportunity to experience despite over 700,000 miles flown.

We had a nice approach into Doha at sunset, arriving to Doha Hamad International Airport next to an Emirates Boeing 777. I managed to spot the Qatar A380 which I hadn't seen before.









We got off the plane and entered the fantastic Doha Hamad International Airport. Between the three Middle East Airports, I think this one is heads and tails above Dubai and Abu Dhabi. We happened to see the million dollar stuffed bear on our way through to customs.







As we headed for the exit, we took advantage of the arrival lounge. Qatar offers its first and business class passengers a separate arrival processing facility. It contains couches, espresso machines and other small beverages. The immigration facilities are in this area and it’s a quiet and peaceful way to clear customs away from the long line ups of everywhere else. No one appeared to actually sit in the lounge, but I sure appreciated the non existent lines as we got our visa's on arrival and we were stamped into the country for our 13 hour stay.





Given that our bags appeared to have been checked through to DOH per our claim stubs, we played it safe and waited for them at the baggage belt. They never turned up so we visited another baggage claim office in the hall. We had assurances that they were being checked through to “your final destination” – it wasn’t clear whether that was Johannesburg or Cape Town. Thankfully, we carried enough in our carry on to survive the night and then some.

All in all, the “World’s Five Star Airline” lived up to its promise and execution. It was a great flight despite being the 7th longest in the world at the time of writing. The wines were great, the seats were mostly comfortable and the food was more than enough to keep us satisfied for the 16+ hours we were on board. If they changed the departure terminal to the Tom Bradley International Terminal, you'd almost have a near perfect experience.
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Old Oct 12, 16, 12:27 am
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Nice review -- am enjoying your report so far.

Not sure when the last time you were in a UA Club, but they are much improved -- at least one par and arguably better than AA IMHO!
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Old Oct 12, 16, 3:48 am
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I am also going to Mauritius and South Africa on Monday so I am interested in reading your report. I am also interested in Namibia / Victoria Falls hopefully for a future trip.

As with you it was a pain organising.
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Old Oct 12, 16, 4:24 am
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Enjoying reading what you've posted so far.
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Old Oct 12, 16, 10:38 am
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Excellent report so far! QR seems to be showing up on here with more frequency and with positive reviews.
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Old Oct 12, 16, 11:02 am
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Enjoying your report so far, and looking forward to the rest. Thanks!
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Old Oct 12, 16, 11:03 am
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Nice report !

Did you fly over the North Pole ? The flights of EK and QR to LAX/SFO go almost straight over the North Pole.
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Old Oct 12, 16, 3:29 pm
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Originally Posted by worldtraveller73 View Post
Give me the AAdmirals Club in Terminal 4 any day.
You should've used the connector and walked over to the oneworld lounge in TBIT.
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Old Oct 13, 16, 4:09 am
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A great start to your Southern African adventure, worldtraveller73.
Looking forward to your experience in Cape Town too. I just spent 5 nights there last month and the locals were quite friendly.

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Old Oct 13, 16, 6:01 am
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Subscribed. I'll be flying DOH-LAX-DOH neext year on QR.
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Old Oct 13, 16, 8:15 am
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Great report with your usual excellent pics and narrative. While QR inflight service is good, that dated 2-2-2 J cabin needs some help. Strange that unlike EY and EK, they've decided to stick with 2 class service on most of their routes. The premium arrivals processing facility at DOH is a brilliant idea.
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